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A week of cruising the Greek islands by motor yacht.

Cruising the Greek islands aboard a yacht would be a dream come true for many travelers: to weave through the Cyclades, that circle of islands in the southern Aegean . . . to stroll the streets of an idyllic whitewashed village clinging to a mountaintop, gleaming in the morning light . . . to stoop to enter a tiny blue-domed cruciform church punctuating the brown, rocky countryside . . . then, under azure skies, to watch the transparent waters change from turquoise to cobalt as you head off to your next moorage.

There are several ways to see these lovely islands. Large 200- to 700-passenger cruise ships cover a lot of territory quickly. A chartered yacht gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Interisland ferry travel is inexpensive.

Another alternative is to join a regularly scheduled tour on a motor yachts go on week-long cruises to such famed islands as Mykonos and Santorini, but also pause at less well known isles off the main tourist route. Every day you'll have time ashore to explore on your own.

The style is informal, the atmosphere low-key and unpressured, and first-name friendships tend to blossom quickly.

It's not luxury travel. You'll sleep in narrow banks, usually two to hour to a compartment, with a small porthole. You may wake briefly to the sound of engines; yachts often slip out of port in the early morning hours when seas are calm.

Bathing facilities are minuscule, and showers require a bit of advance preparation; remove everything you don't want dampened as the bathroom may become drenched. Marine toilets are flushed by vigorous pumping. Dress is casual; there is little cabin storage for clothes or purchases. (But bring appropriate attire for visiting churches.)

At sea. Once ready to start each day, you'll climb up ladder-like stairs to the main lounge where a continental breakfast is served. During the next few hours, activities include sunbathing, board games, and often fishing and water sports, including boardsailing and snorkeling.

Most days you'll stop at a picturesque cove for a preluncheon swim. Lunch from the tiny galley is likely to include a Greek salad with olives, tomatoes, feta, and cucumber followed by fish, chicken, or spaghetti, along with crusty bread and retsina. Fresh fruit is offered for dessert.

In port. As the yacht enters port, the cruise guide gives background information on the attractions of the island, and may offer shopping or restaurant hints. Outings are organized if there is sufficient interest. On our Viking tour, the stop at the island of Tinos included a visit to the famous church housing the icon of the Panayia Evangelistria, a stop at a nunnery, then dinner at a lively little taverna in the mountains.

On Paros we visited inland villages, then lazed away the afternoon on a quiet beach. A highlight of Naxos was seeing huge fallen statues (kouros) near ancient marble quarries. On quiet Serifos and Kythnos, we walked or rode the bus to tiny villages high on a hill. These short excursions cost $4 to $12 each.

On your own at other times, you'll enjoy wandering through clean, whitewashed shopping alleys and sharing seafood appetizers while you watch the sun go down. When you're ashore, a dinner hour of 10 is not uncommon, and the open-air cafes that dot the islands are good choices for dining and people-watching. You'll find ample opportunities to join Greek dancers in small tavernas.

One evening during the cruise, there'll be a captain's dinner aboard ship with good samplings of Greek food and drink.

Season, companies, information. April through early October, scheduled motor yacht cruises depart weekly from athens' port, Piraeus. A ferry usually takes you out to the first island on the itinerary, or back from the last one. Prices for a week-long cruise range from $425 to $1,050.

Two companies offer similar trips: Viking Tours of Greece, 253 Riverside Ave., Westport, Conn. 06880, (800) 341-3030; and Zeus Tours, Inc., 566 Seventh Ave., Suite 701, New York 10018, (800) 223-6802. Write for brochures.

The Greek National Tourist Office, 611 W. Sixth St., Suite 1998, Los Angeles 90017, or your travel agent can tell you about alternative ways to enjoy the islands: by cruise ship, chartered yacht, or interished ferry.
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Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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